A Unique Approach to Discovering Flavours... Cigarscape
You might have already come across him on Instagram... Cigarscape. He is analyzing and profiling cigar tastes and aromas in a very unique way indeed, through sketching the entire cigar along with its taste and aromas. Over and over he has astonished me with its amazing drawings and I wanted to know more about the person behind these colorful cigars. So I am pleased to introduce Cigarscape to you.
How would you like to describe what you currently do?
I’m a visual artist, working in the fields of films, photography and sculpture, often mixing one with another. I’m a visual artist and a university teacher.
Where are you from?
Do you have any hobbies besides cigars?
Cigars is the biggest of my hobbies.
How did you start smoking cigars?
I started smoking cigars about two years after quitting cigarettes. Obviously I was missing the tobacco. But the cigars were the real beginning of smoking the tobacco and enjoying it.
When do you like to smoke the most?
There’s a variety of occasions to enjoy a cigar. Mostly as a leisure, evening activity, alone or as a part of a meeting/conversation. Sometimes during the day, on a walk, or during a coffee break. I enjoy making reviews – the analysis of the flavour/taste profile is one of the best ways to enjoy a cigar on the highest level of concentration, similar to meditation.
Where do you like to smoke the most?
In a cigar lounge, on a long walk outside the city or at my balcony.
How many cigars do you smoke a month?
That amount varies. 10-25 I guess.
What attracts you to cigars and cigar world?
I got attracted mostly by the cigars themselves and the experience they provide. I’m not a big fan of the cigar world in general. I appreciate some attitudes more then the others. I’m not an entrepreneur as such, so that part of the industry is not the most interesting for me. The sensory experiences, the ritual and the cultural activity that smoking cigars provide are priceless. The nomenclature, aesthetics and promotional aspects are secondary for me.
Any magazines you follow about cigars?
Sure! Cigar Journal, Cigar Aficionado. The websites: Cigars-review and Cubancigarwebsite are great places to gather the knowledge about the Cuban cigars. Blogs such as: Kohnhed, Dutchcigars, Friends of Habanos, Half Wheel, and occasionally all the others. I appreciate activities of many reviewers. My knowledge and sources of information about cigars accelerates continuously.
What is your favourite vitola?
That is a hard question for me, because what I love about the cigars is the variety of sizes. The favorites vary depending on an occasion, mood, etc. So, for a regular smoke during the day or a cool evening outside, the Robusto is fine. The Corona Gorda/Toro is one of my favorites as most of the blends shine in that format and it’s satisfying in the terms of the smoking time. The Lancero is an elegant format that I’m enjoying mostly during the summer time when smoking outside. I love the big formats such as Churchills or Double Coronas, when I’m not in a rush and want a cigar to burn for 2-3 hours. I’m not a big fan of large ring gauges, but there are exceptions to this rule as I find some blends that really shine in the thicker vitolas. There is no reason not to like the Torpedos or Belicosos – they combine the thicker ring gauges with comfort of smoking the thinner. And sometimes a Corona has all I need in a smoke – the concentration of flavour and the taste in a modest size, without the B**S**T.
What I’d like to see more often would be parejos with the tapered foot – like to old school Cuban cigars used to have.
How would you choose your cigars?
The choice is both planned and spontaneous. It’s always good to have a variety of options to choose from – to get the right size, body and taste for the particular occasion and mood. I like to get back to my favourite smokes, I have a sort of rotation based on my favourites. On the other hand I’m always craving for the experiment and new experiences – that is why I often choose the cigars new to me, buying lots of singles. And the occasions when I have an opportunity to check out and review a whole line of smokes are priceless.
Thoughts on Cuban vs New World cigars?
Cubans are great and I love them (except for the cases when they’re not ;). I love the New World cigars as well, and I can often find them more interesting than some of the Cubans. The price aspect for the Cuban vs Non-Cuban is becoming secondary, as they all tend to be pricey. A decent-to-very good cigar with a modest price is getting harder and harder to get these days in the both worlds. And great smokes also appear in the both worlds.
How and why did you start analysing the cigars the way you analyse them, leaf by leaf?
Okay. That is a really interesting question. The way I analyse cigars is “not leaf by leaf” but rather hint-by-hint-of-taste or flavour-by-flavour. The way I visualize these hints may give you the feeling that I described the flavour properties of each leaf in the blend but it’s not like that. The short statement from the Cigarscape sums it up: “Each drawing is a subjective artistic interpretation of the proportions of flavours appearing through the entire process of the smoking experience”. However, let me get to the beginning and the explanation of the whole tasting process.
When I first started smoking cigars I got some advice to write down the flavours that I get – to develop my palate and my taste. I made notes such as “sweet, smoky, spicy, etc.” on the back sides of the cigar bands. Soon I realized that there is not enough space to write down all the aspects of the tastes and that there is more to the smoking experience in terms of flavours, transitions and changes during the smoke. So I wanted a method of taking the notes that would enable the notation of the flavour changes during the smoking experience.
That’s when I first put the cigar on the paper and draw the shape/contour of the cigar. That allowed me to take tasting notes during the whole time of smoking. The tastes that I got weren’t present all the same. Sometimes there was more savory than sweetness to the blend. So the crucial thing became the proportions of the flavours. The drawing method made it simple and efficient in a visual way: for example, the savory taste got more space than the sweet taste in my sketch. And the sketch was made live during the smoke, so when the sweetness disappeared, the other taste took its place. But, what is that taste, comparing with what taste experienced in the past? The method forces not to leave the empty places in the drawing/sketch. So it forces to describe all I feel in the blend. And when I’m not sure what I feel I have to interpret the feeling further – not to leave the shape in the drawing empty.
I developed an opinion about the taste in general. The taste experiences are not objective or subjective – they’re inter-subjective. The Cigarscape method (I gave it a name) was a tool for developing my palate, taste and further on – to enhance the experience of smoking. It’s always interesting for me to compare the vague thoughts I have on a particular cigar, when it’s just smoked in a regular way, and the Cigarscape sketch during the whole smoke – the first one usually ends on 3-6 tasting notes. The Cigarscape sometimes leads to 20-30. My method was developed for my personal taste and drawing abilities. Then I noticed that THERE WAS NO METHOD DESCRIBING CIGARS LIKE THIS in the whole cigar world – based on tasting notes visualization during the different parts of smoking a cigar.
So I thought I have to share it with the other passionate smokers. I started posting my drawings on Instagram and waited for the response of the cigar world. There was no big response but I gradually gets more attention. At the moment I seem to be a bit recognized in the cigar industry, at least most of people heard about it. I think that some people just don’t know what to do with it. It is something new and many people don’t know what to think about it or assume it’s some tricky B***S***T.
What is the process behind the analysis you undertake? How do you color-code inside the cigar?
The color code is secondary – one color could be replaced by the other. It’s role is aesthetic. It also differentiates the drawing/profile.
How long does it take to analyse the way you do?
It takes just long as smoking a particular cigar. I have a rule – to never alter the initial sketch. The smoking experience is an experience to note and not to put on some post factum analysis. All the twists of tastes or hints that shows-up and disappears are parts of the real experience and the work of perception, the process of interpretation the taste. I think that they do not belong to the long-term memory of that process.
Do you provide the analysis to the producers? I know Darren Cioffi from Principal Cigars– a mutual friend - is using your analysis and showcasing it on cardboards etc. Are there any other producers?
Darren is a great and open-minded guy. He’s got interested straight away. It was very natural for him to share some smokes with me and for me to give him my sketches. The first sketches of a few Principle Cigars were done before we even meet, so when I showed him those, he said something like: “These are great. I’ve never seen anything like that.”. I am aware that at some point my sketches reveal particular taste and opinion on cigars, and that opinion is personalized and inter-subjective (as I like to call it). So it may be interesting to see someone’s personalized opinion on a cigar. Few other cigar makers asked me to make my sketches of their smokes (Casdagli and Maya Selva Cigars). I appreciate your attention very much, thank you!
Some cigar makers or distributors are often skeptical about showcasing the tasting notes related to their products because they don’t want to disappoint customers and have them think and say: “Hey, I never tasted these flavours in your product”. That may result from the before mentioned misconception about the taste being something subjective. That kind assumption may further lead to a tautology: “an apple tastes like an apple” or “a cigar tastes like a cigar”. Obviously cigars taste different depending on blending, processing the tobacco etc. and we can note those differences. Also, different apples varieties also taste different, so when we want to compare them, we use the tastes related to other foods, apart of the taste of “appleness”.
So what are you trying to achieve through these analyses? What are the next steps for you?
They add up to my personal experience, develop my taste and the palate. They’re something new, so their potential may be still hidden somewhere. In general, I think all the cigar enthusiasts may find them helpful or interesting. In the same way as other peoples’ experiences with cigars may be interesting to me.
I’ll start the Cigarscape website/blog in the near future. The printed book in the future, not so near future. And some other ideas
If and how smoking cigars contributes to your personal and professional life?
The time to focus, relax, regenerate, think over things, you name it.
Do you travel related to cigars?
Sometimes, but not yet on a scale I would call sufficient at this moment.
I would like to thank Cigarscape for this interesting interview. I am sure his sketches will deliver their hidden potential and watch the cigar scene, where I am sure, you will start coming across these beautiful and colorful analyses more often.